Archive for May, 2012

RFID and the EPC network

Most RFID systems operate in the radio spectrum’s unlicensed portion, where regulations
govern power output for readers. This characteristic, combined with physical
limitations, limits the reading range for passive tags, which are powered by the radio
signal that reads them. Some passive tags operate in the low-frequency band
(125–134.2 KHz), such as proximity cards and implantable glass-covered transponders.
These devices have a typical read-range of less than two feet. Passive tags operating
in the UHF band (915MHz in North America) can typically be read at 10 meters or more
in free space, but the range diminishes when tags are attached to everyday objects.
Also, human beings absorb UHF radiation and disrupt the communication between passive
tags and readers. Active tags are battery-equipped and have longer ranges, but they
are also significantly more expensive and have a limited shelf life. Although
different RFID systems have been in use for years, popular accounts of RFID
technology typically refer to the Electronic Product Code. The EPC was developed by
the Auto-ID Center in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and other universities, and is now managed by EPC global. The center’s goal was to
make RFID tags as simple as possible, with the aim of driving the chips’ price
below five cents. Working with industry partners such as Procter & Gamble, the
Auto-ID Center developed an RFID system that many in the industry hope will
replace the ubiquitous Universal Product Code bar codes present on many
consumer products.

Figure 1. An abstract view of the EPC Network

Each EPC tag has a serial number of at least 96 bits divided into sections
identifying the tagged item’s manufacturer, product, version, and serial number.
In addition to being an identification code, this number can serve as a pointer
to a database entry for the tag that contains a detailed transactional history
for the associated object. For example, EPCglobal is in the process of
elaborating a universally accessible Object Name Service (ONS) database; this
service will provide information about tagged objects. Unlike today’s
proprietary and mutually incompatible RFID systems, EPC is being promoted as a
single, open worldwide RFID standard that will dramatically lower costs and
increase adoption. Figure 1 shows an abstract view of the EPC Network. EPC
tags contain several thousand transistors and a small antenna. Given the small
size, the most inexpensive emerging generations of these tags will likely have
only between 250 and 1,000 gates available for security features. 9 As a result,
they won’t implement encryption algorithms or other traditional security
features. EPCglobal has recently completed its Class-1 Generation-2 EPC tag
standard, which is likely to see widespread deployment in the coming years.
In this standard, tags contain a kill self destruct feature. When an EPC tag
successfully receives the kill command, it renders itself permanently inoperable.
To prevent inadvertent or malicious disablement of tags, the EPC-standard kill
command requires readers to use a tag-specific, 32-bit password.


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Telepresence and micropresence

Telepresence, micropresence, and telerobotics hold promise for allowing expert physicians
to assist clinicians and surgeons at remote locations. Telepresence allows a physician to
have access to a distant location through static or full-perspective views of a patient. Highfidelity
telepresence allows a remote location or scene to be inspected from different
perspectives via a procedure of moving distant cameras in concert with the head and gaze
positions of a local observer. Telerobotics allows the telepresent clinician to interact with a
distant patient. Simple forms of telepresence and telerobotics have already become popular
in pathology diagnosis. In telepathology, a surgical pathologist has instant access to a
microscope and a slide of a patient’s biopsy at a distant site. Telepathology systems that
communicate via satellite and over the telephone lines have been developed. Several
groups, including teams at NASA, and within the SRI International bioengineering group,
have developed interesting demonstration technologies that display the effectiveness of
telerobotics for exploring and manipulating objects at a distance. Some telepresence
projects demonstrate strides in developing force-feedback techniques, which allow a user to
feel the texture, elasticity, or weight of distant objects and structures.

We have been investigating a derivative of telepresence, called micropresence, at the Palo
Alto Laboratory. Micropresence can enable physicians to explore and to perform
procedures on compact, complex regions of a patient’s anatomy, while minimizing the
extent of surgical incisions. Micropresence involves the positioning of one or more small
CCD television cameras and associated camera-control systems in hard-to-reach or
compact areas of a patient’s anatomy. Such cameras have the ability to image and enlarge
complex anatomic regions of interest, as well to identify the exact position of teleoperated
microsurgery tools. Micropresence could allow surgeons to explore small or hidden areas
from different perspectives, and to perform surgical procedures in these areas as if the
regions of interest were expanded greatly, or even made to surround a physician. In
essence, a surgeon would be endowed with the ability to explore complex regions, and
maneuver tele-operated tools as if he or she were reduced in size, and could step into these

We focused, in particular, on technologies that can help physicians make more effective use
of computers that offer assistance with decision making. There is great opportunity for
enhancing future healthcare delivery by integrating medical-informatics software with
evolving human—computer interaction technologies.


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Since August 2006 we have experimented with infrastructures and methods to facilitate
creativity and innovation in software development. We aim to build creative settings for
team-based software development using modern development principles. These principles
allow for flexible and incremental development and thus for incorporating new ideas even
late in a project. We expect these principles to widen the window of opportunity for creativity
and innovation by allowing learning experiences and discoveries from an ongoing project to
feed ideas back into the project itself.

The main thrust in our research is the design of Essence. Among the ideas are:

  • Supporting creativity and innovation through all phases in the development project.
  • Integrating into and extending existing development methods.
  • Melding creative sessions with agile development to increase development speed and
    maintain flexibility in the project.
  • Entrusting the development team – rather than external specialists – to be creative.
  • Collective idea-generation in self-organizing teams.
  • Using multiple perspectives to support divide-and-conquer strategies.
  • Maintaining holistic overview via systematic separation.
  • Kinesthetic thinking – using physical location and movement to support simulation and
    idea generation.

We call Essence a method concept, not a method per se, to stress that Essence will find its
actual form as the individual teams use and adapt it through daily routines, and integrate
Essence into their main development method, e.g. Scrum.

To support multiple perspectives we find inspiration in the four generic views: Earth,
Water, Fire and Air named by Empedocles of Acragas (ca. 495- 435 BCE). In his
Tetrasomia, or Doctrine of the Four Elements Empedocles argued that all matter is comprised
of these four elements. Essence is named after Quintessence, the cosmic fifth element added
by Aristotle to complement the four earthly elements.

Essence is intended to be lightweight, easy, and fun to use. Lightweight in the sense that
ceremony and project overheads are kept at a minimum, so as not to have projects leave out
Essence for lack of time. Easy to use in the sense, that the time needed before Essence is
useful should be short, and the activities in Essence should come naturally to the participants.
Finally, it should be fun to use, to raise motivation.


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